Timeline: Digital Technology and Preservation

This timeline highlights key events, projects, publications, and technological changes affecting the use of digital technology and efforts to preserve it. You can apply filters to the timeline by clicking on the green tabs below. For a complete, unfiltered, list of entries, choose Timeline: Digital Technology and Preservation in the breadcrumbs above. The seven subject categories include:


  • Hollerith's "Computer Tabulating Recording Company" is renamed "International Business Machines Corporation" (IBM).


  • First use of the term digital applied to a computer that operates on data in the form of digits or similar discrete elements: "The emitter...differs from the other emitters in that it has twelve digital conducting spots."


  • Vannevar Bush's article "As We May Think" predicts the evolution of hypertext.


  • Moore's Law established - Gordon Moore correctly predicts that the number of transistors on a microprocessor will double approximately every 18 months.


  • The term "microcomputer" is first used in print.


  • Generalized Markup Language (GML) is introduced.


  • The programming languages C and FORTRAN 66 are created.


  • Ohio State University introduces one of the first online catalogs.


  • Queen Elizabeth II

    Queen Elizabeth II becomes the first world leader to send an e-mail.

  • Bill Gates drops out of Harvard to devote his full attention to Microsoft.


  • Dallas Public Library introduces one of the first online public catalogs (OPACs).


  • FORTRAN 77 programming language is created.


  • LZW image compression algorithm is developed and is adopted for compression of modem communications and TIFF, GIF, PDF, Zip, and Postscript files. Belated assertion of the LZW patent in GIF files leads to the development of the PNG image file format in 1995.


  • As personal computers become more powerful, people become accustomed to faster machines and graphical interfaces. Use shifts from centralized mainframes to personal computers distributed over a network.


  • The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) becomes the first supercomputer center in the US.

  • More than 30 million computers are in use in the United States.


  • United States agrees to the terms of the Berne Convention, promoting international standards in copyright protection and resulting in the elimination of copyright notice for copyright protection.


  • TEI P1 "Guidelines for the Encoding and Interchange of Machine Readable Texts" are published.

  • The early 1990s see an explosion in online publishing and a rush to digitize print materials.


  • The HTML 1.0 standard is published.

  • CERN releases the World Wide Web into the public domain.



  • Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) 1.0 is introduced.

  • PowerMac

    The Xerox DocuTech Publishing System is designed for "print-on-demand" network accessed document publishing.

  • Dublin Core logo

    Dublin Core Metadata Initiative originates.

  • Java, an object-oriented programming language, is announced by Sun.

  • Netscape announces Javascript, an object-oriented scripting language.

  • HTML 2.0, the first formal HTML standard, is published.


  • Internet2 project is formed to provide a high-bandwith network for the national research community.




  • Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act is passed in the US "to facilitate the use of electronic records and signatures in interstate or foreign commerce."

  • PubMed Central
    BioMed Central

    PubMed Central and BioMed Central are launched as digital archives of life sciences, biological, and medical journal literature.


  • 75% of journals are online in Science Citation Index®.

  • The Sarbanes-Oxley Act is signed into law. "The goal of the act was to protect investors by improving the accuracy and reliability of corporate disclosures." The law requires publicly traded companies to closely monitor electronic and paper document retention and imposes criminal sanctions for the destruction or loss of certain electronic records.


  • double

    The amount of information transmitted globally over the Internet is projected to double each year.

  • The estimated annual production of materials in Web-ready formats is projected to be "too large to estimate."

  • A British Library study predicts that by 2007 at least 50% of all theses and dissertations will be submitted digitally.

  • Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher publishes her archives online, a first in politics.


  • 55% of adult internet users have broadband at home or work.

  • The NITLE Blog Census, begun in May 2003 in order to characterize the burgeoning blogshere, estimates the presence of 1,208,351 active blogs in April 2004.

  • Final results delivered from PANIC Project, which was one of the first projects to incorporate the use of web services for the preservation function.


  • Planets logo

    The Planets project is launched.

  • American Counsel of Learned Societies Commission on Cyberinfrastructure in the Humanities and Social Sciences releases "Our Cultural Commonwealth" report (PDF).

  • original Twitter logo

    Twitter is founded, bringing forth a new social networking tool based on brief updates, or tweets.





  • JISC Digital Preservation Listserv has been in use for 10 years.

  • The NSF funded Blue Ribbon Taskforce on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access released its Final Report.

  • original Twitter logo

    Library of Congress acquires Twitter Archives.

  • The first national Preservation Week is celebrated. Sponsors include the Library of Congress, Society of American Archivists, and Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, and Institute of Museum and Library Services, among others.


  • PLANETS wins the DPC Award for Research and Innovation for permananently changing the digital preservation landscape by "by shifting the focus to practical, sustainable solutions that are soundly supported by practice-driven research."

  • One year after the National Science Foundation begins requiring data management plans, the DataUp project is born to help researchers manage, archive, and share data.